I'm starting law school

Hopefully, this is the right place to put this.

I’m starting law school in a week. It’s been ten years since I’ve been in school. What should I expect? Anything I should do over the next week to get a jump on things?

What should I look out for during the first few weeks? What kind of students should I study with?

One thing I’m a bit worried about is my age. I’m 33. Will I be one of the oldest people there?

Thanks for your help.

I don’t know much about your other questions, but one of my friends is also starting law school within the next couple of weeks - like me, she’ll be 31 in the first couple of weeks of September. So, I wouldn’t expect that you’ll be alone in your age group - but I don’t have statistics to back that up.

I’m in the third year of my law degree, which I’m doing part-time as a distance education student. Like me (I’m 40), the majority of the students are of “mature” age.

Even back in the 60s there were a fair number of older students in my law school class – discharged soldiers on GI bill, ambitious insurance adjusters, second career teachers, people who worked for several years to develop a grub stake, government careerist looking to get a promotion onto the next plateau. You might be surprised, but I doubt if you will be the oldest L-1.

Good luck, Mr. Man…, you are in for one hell of a ride.

You have got to get a shorter username.

I started law school on my 32nd birthday (well, within a day or two). My law school had plenty of older students. It had started as an exclusively night law school, catering to men who were working full-time, and only had the evenings to go to school (this at a time when few women went to law school–I should check to see when the forst waman graduated). Later it became affliated with an undergraduate college, but only on the condition that it would continue to have a full program for night students.

Anyway, I don’t know of any way for you to get a jump on things, other than finding out what books you’ll need and buying them–try to avoid that madhouse that is the bookstore on the day before classes. Some classes may have a reading assignment for the first class. I’d find the closest good coffee place and the closest comfortable bar or brew pub and introduce myself to the staff. :smiley:

Here’s my standard real advice–law school is all about reading comprehension. Unless your law school has a radical approach, you will be taught law by reading case law and picking the decisions apart until you understand the concepts. Figure out whatever it takes for you to be able to read something as efficiently as possible–it might be skimming, then a slow reading, or one slow read, or one reading and then another with multiple highlighters, or re-reading it all two or three times–but it’s got to be the way that you get the most out of the material in the least amount of time.

Next, get to know your professors. this is where my age was an advantage–I was close to the age of several professors, so it was easier for me to approach them as a person and ask them to jon me for a beer or coffee. Even if you don’t do that, go to their office and ask them questions. The more they know you, the better they can recommend you when it comes to job hunting. plus, most of them love what they teach and want others to understand it and be excited by it. Also, volunteer in class if the professor allows it. Don’t be the class jerk/know-it-all, building ever more tangled hypothetical scenarios, but don’t be afraid to jump in if you know what the case holding is or if you remember which greedy heir is suing which member of her family and why the rule against perpetuities will stop her (and if you ever do figure that one out, would you please tell me, I never did understand it).

Finally, play some cards in-between classes. Or play frisbee, take a walk or get addicted to a soap opera. If you have a SO, try to have one conversation a day of 10 or more minutes that isn’t about law school. It is okay to have a life even though you are in law school. It is okay to have a life even though you are in law school. It is okay to have a life even though you are in law school. (Repeat as often as needed).

Knock ‘em dead, darlin’. :wink:

I started law school when I was 29, and graduated when I was 32. The majority of my classmates had come right from college, but there were plenty of students in their late twenties up into mid to late 30’s. It really wasn’t a big deal.

Generally I found that the older students handled law school better than the 22 year olds. They (and I, if I do say so myself) tended to have a better idea of why they had come to law school, and tended to get less caught up with a lot of the nonsense and stress at law school.

So, what to expect in the first week. Your going to get your class schedule, and your syllabus for each class. Probably you will have a reading assignment for the first day of each class. These reading assignments will almost certainly consist at least partly of cases.

When you first read the cases–which may be hundreds of years old–you are probably going to think, man what the hell have I gotten myself into, I can’t understand what is going on here. But then you are going to read each one again. And you are going to look up every term you don’t understand in Black’s law dictionary. And you are going to think about each case.

And, more importantly, you are going to start asking some questions about each case. First question: what happened? What is the story in this case? Forget you are in LAW SCHOOL. Instead, just focus on the story behind each case. Pretend like you have to explain the case to your aunt: One guy was chasing a fox, and another guy snatched the fox just as the first guy was about to catch it. One guy sold a cow to another guy. Both parties assumed the cow was barren and set the price accordingly, but it turns out the cow was pregnat. The seller wants his cow back. Don’t worry about legalese. Worry about two (or more) people and the story between them.

Ok, so that’s step 1: you know what happened before any lawyers got involved in the case.

Second, who sued who? Why did the plaintiff sue? What did he or she want?

Third, who won?

Fourth, why, according to the Judge who wrote the opinion, did the winner win? Why did the loser lose? Do you agree with the decision? Why? Why not? Does the rule announced by the judge make any sense? Could you apply it to similar cases? Does the rule have any weird consequences? Try to dream up hypothetical cases and think how the rule would apply. Does it make sense? Does it leave questions unanswered? Allow yourself to get caught up in all these questions. They are what–to me at least–makes the law a fascinating, challenging profession and intellectual exercise.

Be ready to talk about the answers to these questions and you will be in fine shape.

Ok, now comes the advice.

My first piece of advice is to remember why you went to law school, and keep the focus on that goal. The reason I say that is that there are plenty of people who do not have a clear idea of their goal, and so they get a goal foisted on them without even thinking about it, and that goal is “get better grades than everybody else and get a more prestigious job than everybody else.”

It’s fine to set a goal for yourself in terms of grades, but just make sure that you are setting the goal rather than letting someone else set it for you.

Second, speaking of grades, I will pass along second hand advice from a friend of mine who did tremendously well on his exams, and in fact wound up clerking on the Supreme Court. What he did was to focus relentlessly on the material that was going to be on the exam. The way he figured out what was going to be on the exam was to spend every afternoon reviewing his notes from class. Invariably he found that what was discussed in class was what the professor thought was important, and what wound up on the exam.

Don’t worry too much about what happens in class. That doesn’t matter to your grade (or it usually doesn’t matter). At first you won’t be able to help it, and you may get nervous about getting called on in class. Soon you will relax about it because you’ll realize that it’s no big deal. What matters is what happens on the exam.

As to studying with other people, I found things worked best when I studied with one other person. There was one guy in my section that I met the first day of law school. We hit it off and decided to study together. In the last few weeks of each quarter before exams, we used to get together to study, and it really helped me a lot. We also studied at his house, rather than at the library or at the law school.

We also had a rule. We never talked about exams after they were over, and we never talked about grades. The ONLY thing we were allowed to say after an exam was “well, I’m glad that’s over.”

But I’d say the main thing is, keep the focus on what your goals are and what you are trying to accomplish by being there.

Get a copy of the text of A Fish Called Wanda. You may be in for a surprise.

Law is taught as a science. Learn it that way. Formulas, Algorithms etc.

Cases and Statutes are like Chemical reactions.

Not like humanities courses.

I didn’t explain this part very well. What I meant was:

  1. When you are studying, focus your studying on the topics and the points that the professor discusses in class. These are the points that the professor considers most important.
  2. When I said don’t worry about what happens in class, what I meant was, don’t get too worried about your own performance when called on in class. It’s good to be prepared and all, but generally speaking how well (or how poorly) you answer questions when called on in class has NO effect on your final grade. Your final grade is determined by, and only by, the final exam.

Thanks for all the advice. Everybody’s been very helpful.